MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Health (DOH) is crediting South Korean rapper Psy and his viral YouTube video “Gangnam style” for successfully lowering the number of firecracker injuries in the Philippines.
Health Assistant Secretary Eric Tayag said the department recorded a total of 931 fireworks-related injuries from December 21, 2012 to January 6, 2013. Of this, 904 were due to fireworks, 25 from stray bullets and 2 from fireworks ingestion.
There was one death from stray bullet and one case of tetanus.
Tayag said this was the lowest number of injuries since 2009. The total figure is 9 percent lower (90 injuries) compared to the same period last year with 1,021 fireworks-related injuries.
The health official earlier urged Filipinos to groove to the K-pop dance sensation instead of using powerful firecrackers during the holidays.
“We thank Psy for his Oppa Gangnam style! This is the lowest (number of injuries) since 2009. It really helped a lot. In a way, there was an alternative because people just danced,” he said.
Tayag said the latest number of firecracker injuries involved more males (714) injured than females. The most affected group were 6-10 years old (240).
There were 753 who sustained blast/ burn injuries without amputation, 137 from eye injuries and 34 from burn/blast injuries with amputation.
Piccolo (236), unknown fireworks (142) and kwitis (128) caused most of the injuries.
The National Capital Region CR had the most number of injuries, particularly in Manila (168), Quezon City (120) and Mandaluyong (44).
The DOH also started respiratory illness surveillance from December 21 to January 5. The health department reported that 511 complained of breathing problems in 3 hospitals, Lung Center (267 cases), Jose Reyes (186 cases) and East Ave (58 cases).
Tayag, however, called on more serious law enforcement in the use of firecrackers due to the large number of injuries.
He said the DOH supported the call for a total fireworks ban in residential areas while shifting to local government-led fireworks display.
Tayag said this will be the central topic in a DOH-led fireworks summit in February, which will include the education, trade and interior and local government departments; representatives of local chief executives and mayors, the Eco Waste Coalition and civil society groups.
The health official said the DOH supports calls to ban indiscriminate firing during the holiday season. "It's barbaric and anti-Filipino,” he said.
Health Secretary Enrique Ona said they are modestly satisfied with the outcome of this year's campaign.
"We will do better next time but we have to find new ways on how to deal with this and hopefully the Summit will be able to provide us the answers. Lastly, we gladly share this success with all local governments, other government agencies, civil society, church groups and the media,” he said in a statement.